Review by Thurston Howl
There's really not enough nonfiction in the furry fandom. Not enough about the fandom and by the fandom. So, when I met Joe Strike at last year's Furry Weekend Atlanta, I was thrilled to meet a furry nonfiction writer.
His new book is titled Furry Nation: The True Story of America's Most Misunderstood Subculture, and it was published through Cleis Press.
A quick glance at the table of contents reveals pretty familiar aspects to most furries: " 'I'm Not the Only One!'"; "Pretty as a Picture: Furry Art"; "Walk a Mile in My Fursuit"; "The Naughty Bits"; etc. So, it would seem that Strike "strikes" out to write a fairly comprehensive study of the fandom.
However, that comprehensiveness—while certainly helpful—comes with a slew of its own problems.
While each chapter does have a set theme as mentioned above, many of the chapters come off as rambling and long quotes without much meaning. The book as a whole doesn't seem very cohesive. Despite the subtitle indicating that this is a "story" and Patten's equally misleading blurb that this is a "history," the book seems very much to be an exploration. That is, Strike takes a topic and loosely organizes all the information he has on it into a chapter. Sometimes, a quote goes on for several pages without any clear purpose. Other times, Strike goes on a personal rant for several pages.
However, that said, if you come into this book without the expectations of normal trade nonfiction (and the misleading subtitle and Patten review), you might learn quite a bit. If you explore the fandom through the author's reptilian eyes, you will indeed learn historical facts you hadn't previously known and possibly see connections you hadn't considered.
A big question for furry nonfiction is always "Who is the audience for this?" To a furry reading this, they might gain some historical precedent but also might disagree with some of the portrayals of the themes (many of them ignore the social media aspects of the fandom as well as the commercial industry aspects). To the non-furry, this would be a good primer on understanding the fandom, especially through the personal journey Strike takes with this.
Due to this difference in audience, it's safe to say everyone could gain something from reading Furry Nation, regardless of furry identity. Strike has produced a very well-researched text here, so if you want a good "Did you know?" book on the fandom, Furry Nation is perfect for you.